A blank white board was the lone item to adorn empty walls in the Broken Arrow Lady Tiger soccer locker room.
It wat the first official meeting of the 2018 season. Coach Kasey Mahaffey instructed players to come up one at a time and write what they think the team can accomplish over the course of the season.
Black marker cursive writing. Printed blue letters. Artistic pastel calligraphy. The writing was all different. The penned thoughts varied from words of encouragement to soccer expectations and from messages of friendship and to those strictly looking for laughs.
Once the white space nearly vanished behind the erasable ink Mahaffey picked up a red marker.
“I asked you to write what you think you can do,” she then turned to the board. With arm stretched to the top of the board, pressing firmly on the marker, she wrote, “We Will…”
“We adopted that as our motto,” senior Gracie Hair said. “Last year it was ‘Rise.’ This year it’s ‘We Will.’ It’s been a motivator for us. Seeing how much the girls want it, makes it really special. It’s so surreal, to be so close to your teammates and all be working toward a common goal.”
Some of the accomplished “wills” have been erased from the board. However, that “common goal,” that three months later is on the cusp of becoming reality, still remains on the board. Under the words “We Will” reads “WIN STATE.”
Hair looks back on that day. She sees her coach’s writing as more than a challenge. She sees it as prophetic.
“We went from I can to I will, so it’s almost like we have won it because we have said that we will,” the Tiger senior defender said.
Hair is a reflection of the entire team’s attitude.
“They know were good,” Mahaffey said of her undefeated Lady Tigers. “They see it every day in practice. They see it in the results. I think our girls this year really know how good we are.”
The Lady Tigers, 16-0, will play Mustang, 14-4, in the State Championship game Friday at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City. Game time is 7 p.m.
“Mustang is a hard-working, physical team,” Mahaffey said. “They have a lot of speed up top, but my girls, our defense has just played great this year. We have a lot of leadership from the back and speed as well, so it should be a great matchup.”
The teams have just two common opponents: Enid and Norman North. Both teams beat Enid, 4-0. Mustang lost to Norman North, in overtime, 3-2, in the final regular season finale’ for the district championship. That was Mustang’s only district loss. Mustang has outscored opponents 65-14, while Broken Arrow has put up 60 goals on the season and allowed just three. The Lady Tigers are riding a five-game shutout streak. Broken Arrow defeated Norman North, 1-0, on the road, in Tuesday’s semifinal match. A slow start, getting only one goal and failing to cash in on several other chances, drew a tone of frustration from Mahaffey during halftime and following the game.
“I think, kind of having a setback yesterday on how disappointed I was in the way they played has gotten the girls ready,” Mahaffey said. “It’s actually going to help them. My girls have bad games here and there but it’s never been two in a row. Once they have one they get as upset with themselves as I do and they try to change it before the next game.”
Hair and Morgan Rollow, who scored the team’s lone goal in the semifinal, both said this year’s squad was a second half team. The duo agreed they will need to play better in the first half against Mustang if they want to win the school’s first girls state soccer championship since 1998.
“We need to come out with heart and pick up our game right from the beginning,” Rollow said. “We can’t wait until the second half. We might not have a shutout in the first half, and we could be down one or down two. We need to put out a full effort in the first half and give it all we’ve got for the whole game.”
The effort will come from different places on the field for some players like Rollow, who will move from midfielder to forward due to an injury to freshman goal-scorer Hanna Chance.
“I’m confident in every player we have on our team,” Rollow said. “I feel like even if we had multiple injuries, with the unity we have as a team, we’ll have other people step up their game and fill that gap.”
Hair echoed Rollow’s thoughts.
“Any time you lose a stud player like Hanna it’s a big loss,” she said. “But, as a team, we are very confident in our abilities to make adjustments and move forward.”
That spark of confidence is alive in each player. The self-assuredness of these girls and faith in each other gives cause for Mahaffey to answer “yes, I love this team.”
With four-year starters Rollow and Hair, and several others who have three-years of varsity time, the coach has players who have experienced nearly every soccer game scenario except, and this is the big one, playing in a state final.
“We are super-psyched,” Rollow said. “I feel like we all came to play this year. We all have the mindset to win a state championship.”
Fulfilled expectations result in “We Will” being erased from the white board and above “WIN STATE” is written “WE DID.”